Security for KZN Reed Dance women stepped up

2015-09-01 16:21
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Durban - Safety concerns ahead of the annual Reed Dance in KwaZulu-Natal have been highlighted following the death of 65 young women on their way to the annual Swazi Reed Dance at the weekend.

The KZN department of arts and culture said it is doing everything in its power to ensure the safety of young women participating in Umkhosi Womhlanga at eNyokeni Palace in Nongoma.

Thousands of young women from all over KZN, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Swaziland, will travel on Thursday to Nongoma to participate in the festival.

Women over the age of 18 will present their reeds to King Zwelithini III on September 4 and the rest of the women the following day. Zwelithini will deliver his main address on September 5.

The celebrations take place just a week after 65 young women, ready to participate in the annual Umhlanga Reed Dance in Swaziland, died in an accident.

It was reported they were en route to cut reeds for the annual ceremony when the accident happened.

The death toll is in dispute though. The Swazi police say 13 people - 11 young women and two men - died. But the Swaziland Solidarity Network reported the higher figure.

Lucky Lukhele from the Swaziland Solidarity Network told eNCA the number was changed to allow the Swazi king to continue with the Reed dance.

The festival took place on Monday despite media attention on the deaths.

The Swazi accident has reminded locals that in 2013 more than 10 young women participating in the 2013 KZN annual Reed Dance died in a bus accident outside Eshowe.

Spokesperson for the arts and culture department Lethukuthula Mtshali said 209 buses and 26 taxis have been arranged to transport the young women this year.

"The department has strongly advised municipalities assisting with the transportation to conduct road-worthiness inspections on the vehicles as well as the verification of Professional Driving Permits [PDP’s] and vetting of drivers’s records.

"Districts that have organised their own transport have been advised to follow the same instructions," said Mtshali.

"We are working with numerous law enforcement agencies, such as the KZN Liquor Board and Road Traffic Inspectorate, to inspect incoming vehicles to ensure that alcohol is not brought into the venue."

Mtshali said authorities will conduct random roadside breathalyser tests.

He said the department will not tolerate behaviour that compromises the integrity or safety of the young women.

In 2013, a man was reportedly arrested for filming young women while they took a bath.

"There will be a strong police presence leading up to and throughout the Reed Dance to ensure the safety of the maidens.

"The girls’ sleeping marquees are fenced off and security marshals under the leadership of the Royal Household will look after the girls throughout the ceremony. Each group is also travelling with a guardian from its respective district."

Read more on:    durban  |  culture

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